Answering the phone with a quick “hey” and “how are you doing,” Jimmy Wilkens, a Cleveland State University graduate making a name for himself with his band The Sonder Bombs, eases his way into a quick 15-minute phone call about his life after graduating.
Graduating from Cleveland State in 2015, Wilkens studied management and labor relations, which is a degree that has a particular focus on human resources.
While the program he majored in doesn’t have much to do with what he’s doing in his life right now, that doesn’t mean attending the program wasn’t valuable. According to Wilkens, the program has helped him significantly since he helped form the band back in 2016.
Being in a band is kind of like starting up your own business, Wilkens explained. Due to his background in business, he’s been able to handle a lot of the day-to-day responsibilities of being in the band, which has allowed the other members to focus on other tasks. Whether that be Willow Hawks (uke, vocals) working on songwriting, Eric Heald (drums) focusing on merch and other label-related things, and Kevin Cappy (the newest member and bassist) figuring out how to take the band’s live performance to the next level.
“A lot of bands struggle with getting their music out there because, when you’re in a band, you’re a creative person and you don’t think in terms of business,” Wilkens said. “I think the business school helped teach me that you yourself are a brand and [the importance] of networking.”
In today’s current scene, it’s apparent that a lot of bands feel as though playing in front of a bunch of people is enough to gain a rapid following, but there’s a lot of behind the scenes work that needs to be done to gain success. Between drafting up emails to networking with other bands, who are typically the ones that help out the most, there’s more to being in a band than just making music.
According to Wilkens, his business communication class helped him better understand how to communicate efficiently and effectively in a professional setting. One of the most important skills he took away from attending the class was how to draft an email properly.
“A lot of these emails I was sending sounded bigger and badder than what we were, and then we got put on good shows because of it,” Wilkens explained. “It also helps when we’re trying to get press. So when we’re trying to email blogs and publications to get someone to cover our music, you usually have to send an email first and the same skills apply there.”
Taking a concept that he learned from a business class, Wilkens realized rather quickly that the band is a business, and to succeed, they would have to find ways of setting themselves apart.
“I had one marketing class, but a lot of the concepts came up over and over again, and the thing that stuck out to me was companies that go above and beyond to do something different from everyone else,” Wilkens said. “So I look at the band the same way: the band is basically a business; we are starting a business from the ground up, so we have to do things that are above and beyond to make us stand out from the crowd and show that we care.”
Through networking with others to advertising their music online, Wilkens and the rest of his band have always kept the notion that they are their own brand in the back of their minds.
The business side of things is just one of the many aspects of being in a band, but it hasn’t phased Wilkens in the slightest.
The Sonder Bombs recently signed a deal with Take This To Heart records, which will release their debut album sometime this fall. Once the effort officially drops, the band will head on a string of tours.
Gathering around a single bottle of unopened red wine, students and faculty members met at the Monte Ahuja College of Business’ Weston Ideation Lab for the first Founder Fridays.
The new program is a networking event for students to meet founders, co-founders and entrepreneurs of local Cleveland businesses.
To help guide the discussion along was CLE Urban Winery founder Destiny Burns, who began her entrepreneurial endeavors a few years back with a fresh start and a simple idea. Fast forward a couple of years later, she now runs an upscale and chic winery located in the middle of the historically urban town of Cleveland Heights.
While she’s found success in being the owner of a winery, things haven’t always pointed to making a career in the food and alcohol industry.
Moving out of Ohio years ago, she spent the better part of her life as a U.S. Navy officer, serving almost 20 years in active duty. Soon after her time in the military, she explained that she went on to work for a defense companies.
At the end of her career with those companies, she faced huge changes in her personal life, so she decided to pack her bags and move back to her hometown of Euclid.
“I had always wanted a food or wine related business,” Burns said. “It was a dream of mine as I’ve traveled all over the world and I got to sample all kinds of fun things.”
“I looked at the market here in Cleveland,” she continued “And from the outside looking in, there was just such a cool, foodie environment here, and [I thought] of this concept of an urban winery.”
Describing her business as a “community center that sells wine,” she’s been able to keep that tagline going with a strict business model and an even stricter set of core values on which she runs her business.
Whether she’s finding the best flavors of wine, flavors that everyone can enjoy, to bringing in local businesses to her winery to help them get more business, she’s been able to craft her own community in her small company.
Of course, she hasn’t always had it easy creating her own business.
Between finding her own “tribe” of workers helping run the business to really learning the financial aspect of things, she’s had her fair share of figuring things out, especially when it comes to things outside of her initial idea — something she’s noted is a problem with which all future entrepreneurs struggle.
“Entrepreneurs tend to focus on [the idea,] primarily, and really, that’s the smallest part,” Burns said. “Sometimes people look at a business plan as a [checking a box] but really that is everything. Every section of that is important.”
Burns’ meeting was the first of three Founder Fridays the college of Business will be hosting during the fall 2018 semester.
The next person to participate in the Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship’s Founder Friday event is Peter Brown, founder of Six Shooter Coffee. Brown will be coming to Cleveland State to discuss the trials of creating his business on Oct. 26
Discussions and hands-on activities attracted students to the auditorium of the Monte Ahuja College of Business Nov. 7 for an hour-long presentation about how to manage distractions in the work place.
Beta Alpha Psi, an international honor and service organization that focuses on students in career fields that deal with financial information, such as accounting, financial and information systems, hosted the event.
The organization brought in Clifton Larson Allen, the eighth largest accounting firm in the United States. The company also has a few offices in the Cleveland area.
As most can guess, cell phones, social media, co-workers and music can all be considered distractions, but even work itself can fall into that category. With emails, meetings and having to issue and give feedback to others, it can take attention away from the tasks originally at hand.
So, how to manage these distractions?
Fortunately, it’s not as difficult as it may seem. One of the speakers at the event, Brittany Marcelli, explained that checking email in-between tasks, looking at phones once every hour, separating yourself from the workspace if you need a moment alone, planning things out and most importantly, knowing yourself, can get the job done.
“Not everyone manages distractions the same,” Marcelli said. “Just kind of knowing your personality, that can actually go a long way. Do you need to make to-do lists? For me, I love making to-do lists and that becomes a distraction. So just knowing [and knowing what causes a distraction for you] is important.”
A group activity helped demonstrate how managing key things in life can be separated by managing it one thing at a time.
In the exercise, groups of four or five students received a bag full of ping-pong balls representing those key things. One person in the group was assigned to be the bag holder, while other were assigned to be real-life tasks. The bag holder would have to quickly hand out each ping-pong ball to the person that represented the letter on the ball.
The activity lasted about five or six rounds, and it was meant to show how all of these life tasks can become overwhelming if you don’t find a way to manage these tasks in a strategic way.
Students left the auditorium with a new idea of how to manage the growing number of distractions in the workplace.
Gathering around a stack of books, students and faculty members met at the Monte Ahuja College of Business’ boardroom to have an hour-and-a-half-long conversation about the ins and outs of creating and maintaining one’s business.
This meeting was the third of a series of presentations hosted by the college called Founder Fridays, which is an event students and faculty members can go to network with founders, co-founders and entrepreneurs of businesses in the Cleveland area.
Matt Souful, a life-long Clevelander and the co-founder of the Business Quarterback and Consolidated Casework, Inc., helped guide the discussion for the third Friday Founders event on Nov. 30,
“We [the Business Quarterback] call ourselves ‘profit warriors,’ [because] we are constantly working with our clients to drive profitability in their businesses,” Souful said. “We leverage my chief financial officer background and my accounting background to provide three buckets of services.”
Those buckets of services he refers to are accounting and traditional bookkeeping for smaller businesses; outsourced chief financial services; and profit-first advising and coaching, which is a certification his company offers based on a book called “Profit First.”
These services are what Souful has spent years crafting and trying to maintain, and he’s done so with a lot of hard work and homework.
In addition to explaining what exactly his company is, he also explained during his presentation what his approach to finance is, how he started, and how he’s been able to maintain that success.
Souful was the third and final entrepreneur to host the Founder Friday event for the fall semester. The College of Business will host more of these events next semester, when Ossemble founder Joshua Koszekski will discuss how he started his business.
Koszekski will be coming to Cleveland State University to discuss the trials of starting his business on Jan. 25.
Crowding around the auditorium of Ronald Berkman Hall, students from various majors gathered as speakers from Skylight Financial prepped for their hour-long presentation on financial literacy for college students.
Cleveland State University’s Financial Aid Office has created workshops to teach not only students, but faculty and staff, the financial literacy skills they can use not only while attending the university, but beyond.
The training, which will also be offered in the spring semester, covers a variety of important topics that include things like “Paying for College” and “Unraveling Credit Reports and Scores.”
The financial aid office designed the training to help students gain a better understanding of the financial aspect of college. The program’s website goes into further detail by explaining the office wants to “empower students” and help support them for “success beyond graduation.”
With this goal in mind, the office hosted its first Financial Literacy Series presentation, “Financial Wellness – Paying for College.”
The program, presented by Keven Prather and Michael Scerbin of Skylight Financials, Tuesday, Oct. 16 used slides to provide an overview of financial literacy.
While financial literacy is an overarching subject, the two presenters broke down the most important aspects of it. Kicking off the presentation, Prather explained what financial well-being is and ways to help financial goals.
Prather said financial well-being occurs when a person has control over not only their day-to-day finances but month-to-month as well. To have well-being, he went on to explain that students need to have a budget, understand their finances and categorize their expenses.
He said if students allocate expenses in a 50, 30 and 20 rule, in which 50 percent goes to living, 30 to wants and 20 to debts, they should have a better grasp on the things they can afford.
Following his presentation on basic budgeting and financing tips, Scerbin took over to explain the differences between good and bad debt, investing and how to build off of those money-saving techniques.
He explained that after students have the foundation of these financial concepts, they can then take those budget-saving tricks and transition them to the real world when it comes to paying off debt and getting “a leg up in the world.”
With the presentation being divided into learning how to budget and how investing helps further success, those in attendance were left with some final thoughts on how these concepts work.
While individual finances can be different, the presenters maintained that by following simple steps of setting a “smart goal” and making decisions to further success can only help in the long run.
The Financial Aid Office will continue this series on Nov. 6 with Skylight Financial from 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. in Ronald Berkman Hall’s auditorium. The topic for that hour-long presentation will be “Smart Borrowing – Smart Repayment.”
CSU hosts guest speaker to discuss information security10/30/2018
The Monte Ahuja College of Business’s Association for Information Systems presented a discussion with Tyler Musser, a security engineer manager at Sherwin-Williams, on the topic of information security in the workplace on Oct. 17.
The presentation happened on a dreary Wednesday afternoon, but that didn’t deter the handful of curious students from coming to the business school’s boardroom to hear what Musser and colleagues had to say about the importance of information security.
Unlike most presentations, this meeting followed a “roundtable style,” where a moderator asked various questions to move the meeting along while still allowing attendees to ask their own questions. While it was primarily moderator-driven, students had the opportunity to ask their own questions later in the meeting.
Messer talked about a variety of topics including their roles in the company and how college students could capitalize on working for their company.
To begin his presentation, Messer started off by saying there are a lot of opportunities for college students when it comes to working for the company, especially in their information security department.
“We have 55 to 60 people within security and privacy in our organization,” Messer said. “We’ve grown that program over the last several years. I think we started with maybe 25 people and we’ve organically added people, we’ve brought in new capabilities we want to support with the tools and we do a lot of college recruiting.”
Following the introduction to his presentation, Messer went into more detailed topics of conversation, including how they implement information security for a major company like Sherwin Williams, how students can break into the world of IT and finding more secure ways of handling information.
As of right now, Messer’s presentation is the last event the AIS will host for the fall semester.
The Association for Information Systems (AIS) is a student organization that “serves society through the advancement of knowledge and the promotion of excellence in the practice and study of information systems.”
The Monte Ahuja College of Business has added a new Sales Certificate program to its curriculum.
According to the College of Business’ website, the Professional Sales Certificate will “provide opportunities for students by enhancing their fundamental knowledge and developing sales skills that are desired by industry.”
In doing so, the Sales Certificate program will provide students with a hands-on curriculum that will allow them to use learned skills and apply them in a real-world setting.
The dean of the Monte Ahuja College of Business, Sanjay Putrevu, Ph.D., said the hope for the program is to help students through training, to gain a skill set in the following areas: negotiation, persuasion and communication.
“It’s not just about selling, it’s about building relationships, proper communication, learning about the needs of the customer, and trying to emphasize it in the best possible way,” Putrevu said. “It’s going to give the students a professional skill set that enhances their ability to communicate and enhance their ability to research their potential clients.”
The certificate program requires students to take a minimum of 15 credit hours. For those who are interested in adding more courses, the program does offer additional classes depending on their area of interest.
“One of the reasons we actually built the certificate is [because it] can also be an add-on to any degree,” Putrevu said. “It’s an easy transition for some majors, but the advantages apply to several majors.”
As Putrevu noted, the school designed the program in a way that will allow those who aren’t business majors to join the program without any difficulties.
Created from the ground up, the school’s primary goal was to make sure it took out some of the constructural constraints, like certain prerequisites, out of the equation so all students, no matter the major, could enroll in the program without needing additional classes under their belt.
While the sales certificate program is still in its early stages, Putrevu remains optimistic for the program’s future. He said he hopes to reach as many students as possible, to allow them to hone the skills they have already learned in their existing major.
“The reason I am so enthusiastic to make this happen is [because it is] not so much a new requirement, it’s more like [enhancing the] skill set you already have training in [your existing major],” Putrevu said. “We want to bring those skill sets to the top, and this certificate is designed to do just that. It helps you market yourself better, helps you make yourself valuable to potential employers. So I would encourage as many students as possible to do this.”